commodorified: They say one thing and another thing and both at once I don't know It will all have to be gone into at the proper time (at the proper time)
[personal profile] commodorified
I am enthusiastically in favour of addressing people as they wish to be addressed, and referring to them by the pronouns, etc, that they prefer, or, if lacking data, using 'they'.

And there has, thankfully, been a lot of discussion of the matter to help me get this right.

So now I am wondering about formal modes of address for general and specific addressing of people whose genders are non-binary.

[personal profile] staranise sensibly points out that when addressing groups, "Honoured Guests" may reasonably be used along with, or instead of, "Ladies and Gentlemen/Mesdames et Messieurs". (ETA [personal profile] anne adds "Amis Distingués")

Suitable substitutes for "Sir", "Madam" "Ma'am", "Mr." "Ms", "M.", "Mmme", and so forth, however, elude me.

Has anyone seen anything good on this?

Date: 2014-02-07 11:55 pm (UTC)
anne: (Default)
From: [personal profile] anne
I don't think there's a default yet, so asking individuals what they prefer still seems like the way to go.

(I'd like to add "ami(e)s distingué(e)s" to go with "honoured guests," BTW. I'm pretty sure I'm not just making it up?)

Date: 2014-02-08 12:05 am (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
I've yet to figure any good ones out, something that drove me up the WALL when I was working hotel front desk. I wanted neutral ways to politely address people and they eluded me utterly.

The closest I've found is, if they've a profession, you can sometimes go with that as a form of address. The obvious examples are doctor and reverend/pastor, but it works for some others as well. Like, with teachers (particularly at university but in most contexts it won't read too weird): Professor [Surname] is an excellent way to go. (It also neatly side-steps the PhD/Dr. issue if you're unsure of they have obtained a doctorate or not!) Coach and chef are also very natural. It's by no means always usable even with professions that are natural for it, because context -- but it IS helpful.

That said, I have seen Mx. used in print as a neutral address, but I suspect it would read very unnaturally to attempt to use it in spoken conversation.

So yeah, Imma track this sucker to see if anyone has better suggestions because seriously. DROVE. ME. NUTS. I did not want to have to blithely assume a gender for people to politely address them but basically that's what it seemed to come down to.

(When making reservations? I always defaulted to MM. as opposed to MR. or MS.; while technically it expands to 'MR. and MRS.' functionally nobody else at the organisation knew that that's what it stood for making it the most visually neutral option we had, barring 'DR.')

Date: 2014-02-08 12:21 am (UTC)
naraht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naraht
Like, with teachers (particularly at university but in most contexts it won't read too weird): Professor [Surname] is an excellent way to go. (It also neatly side-steps the PhD/Dr. issue if you're unsure of they have obtained a doctorate or not!)

That doesn't work in the UK, at least, because there are many university lecturers (with and without doctorates) who are not Professors. (It's a title reserved for a very few.)

Date: 2014-02-08 12:22 am (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
Regional difference are so fascinating! I'd not known that about UK universities.

Date: 2014-02-08 12:34 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
AHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahahahahahahaha *despairing gasp*

Date: 2014-02-11 04:11 pm (UTC)
random: (Default)
From: [personal profile] random
Actually, I'd say that's changed with the massive growth in sessional lecturers. I think of professors as tenured, which is a huge minority by now.

Date: 2014-02-08 06:30 pm (UTC)
ashkitty: a redhead and a couple black kitties (Default)
From: [personal profile] ashkitty
Was about to say the same thing--Professor in the UK is a specific and extremely prestigious title.

Date: 2014-02-08 05:09 am (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
Boosted! :)

Date: 2014-02-08 07:02 am (UTC)
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
From: [personal profile] sollers
My problem with MM is that the French part of my head automatically reads it as "messieurs".

Date: 2014-02-08 08:46 pm (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
The context I ran across it in, the person bringing it up didn't care for it because it felt a bit to exotic, rather than being an ordinary workaday. Xs being not super common in English. I don't know that I agree with that assessment (or that I think it would continue to ping that way if it saw regular usage), but it's worth noting.

My particular frustration was in addressing people particularly as a hotel front desk agent -- a brief, retail interaction between total strangers. I was trained to use a guest's name at least three times in any given interaction; it's extremely difficult to do that politely without assuming a gender. (We can argue about whether it's a good thing that we expect retail workers to address all guests as their social superiors, but I tried and found I cannot make myself drop the formality in that context.)

I mean, I cheerfully use all the other options of flexibility for to address people in informal or semi-formal conversation! It's really only within that narrow retail context that it was so impossible to negotiate.

Date: 2014-02-09 03:57 pm (UTC)
adrian_turtle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] adrian_turtle
For titles used in fiction, I like "Myr" that Tiptree uses for male and female characters. The problem is that a person seeing an entirely unfamiliar title (such as one from fiction they haven't read) won't recognize it as respectful address--it looks like a typo, and might even look mocking.

I sometimes promote, or round up. Using "Doctor" for anybody in an academic or medical context. Though retail is quite a bit harder, because there isn't that sort of context.

Date: 2014-02-08 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] malka
Singular is hard. The closest I've come is using "Excuse me" as an address when talking to strangers. (Instead of "Ma'am/sir, you dropped your hat," it's "Excuse me, you dropped your hat." It's a little more impersonal, but still reasonably polite.)

Two more options for addressing groups: "colleagues" (in a professional or semi-professional context) and "folks" (in informal or semi-formal contexts).

Date: 2014-02-08 04:59 am (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
Oh, yes! Folks is great for semi-formal to informal if you've multiple people you're addressing. Similarly, y'all -- if it comfortably fits into your idiolect -- is also a good option; I pretty much always use one or the other when greeting multiple people professionally.

Date: 2014-02-08 10:52 am (UTC)
wordweaverlynn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wordweaverlynn
Y'all is useful. The northern equivalents are yiz/yins/you'uns/youse. Unfortunately not accepted as formal English.

There's also "friends," if you're addressing a crowd, as long as you don't follow it with the rest of the speech. Maybe you could use "citizens," instead of Romans and countrymen.

Actually, Quakers solved this issue by addressing everyone of any rank as Friend or Friend [Firstname]. Including King Charles II. From Royal Charles by Antonia Fraser.

One day Charles entered a crowded chamber in Whitehall Palace. As was the custom, every lady curtsied and every gentleman bowed and removed his hat. Except for one: William Penn, the Admiral's embarrassing Quaker son. Determined to make his point for his faith, William remained upstanding, his hat firmly on his head.

Charles stopped before him, pointedly taking note of what could be considered treasonous defiance, and could, too, be rewarded with quick trip to the Tower.

Then the king slowly removed his own hat. This was not what anyone expected, including William himself.

"Friend Charles," William said, with even more daring. "Why dost thou not keep on thy hat?"

Unperturbed, the king answered. "Because it is the custom of this place that only one man should remain uncovered at a time."

Date: 2014-02-08 06:39 am (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
I switch to second person almost immediately. "Is there anything you need?"

Date: 2014-02-08 07:07 am (UTC)
sollers: me in morris kit (Default)
From: [personal profile] sollers
There is an underlying problem with all the forms of address, which may in any case need to be addressed: they all carry the message "You are my social superior". Surely there must be a way we can develop of being polite to someone without grovelling.

Date: 2014-02-08 10:59 am (UTC)
wordweaverlynn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wordweaverlynn
See the William Penn story above.

Date: 2014-02-08 01:55 pm (UTC)
giglet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] giglet
Huh. I don't necessarily see that formal forms of address imply social disparity. In my Spanish-speaking family, we use the formal "you" of "Ud." And "Uds." All The Time for pretty much everyone we meet and each other. Okay, except for addressing a baby or when actually in bed with a lover, who get the more intimate and informal "tu".

On the other hand, I can see your point about how honorifics *can* be used as a tool of classist snobbery. Especially in service jobs.

Date: 2014-02-08 09:45 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I sometimes use "Gentlebeings". Forget where I picked it up. – Or "Gentlefolk", of course.

I don't think of it as speaking to superiors, but as courteous speech. I use "Sir", "Ma'am", "Miss" all the time (of course these are gendered), just for moving in a crowded place, like on the sidewalk (I walk pretty fast) or on public transit. "Excuse me, sir... pardon me, ma'am." It's part of not tring to shove my way through. Giving respect gains respect, and everyone's more comfortable.
Edited Date: 2014-02-08 09:48 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-02-08 12:56 pm (UTC)
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Default)
From: [personal profile] nishatalitha
I am now asking a friend of mine who is non-binary; they haven't told me what they'd like. I have linked them to your post.

...sometimes, I'd really like different singular/plural they and you.

Date: 2014-02-08 10:57 pm (UTC)
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
From: [personal profile] wildeabandon
Most of the genderqueer people I know use Mx, and pronounce it 'mix'.

Date: 2014-02-09 04:21 am (UTC)
castiron: cartoony sketch of owl (Default)
From: [personal profile] castiron
In email, when I'm not sure what form of address to use, I tend to use "Greetings" unless I've corresponded with someone often enough to be able to use "Dear Firstname".

Date: 2014-02-09 04:29 pm (UTC)
amazon_syren: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amazon_syren
Good to know about the "Mix".

At VoV, we used "Ladies, Gentlemen, and Rogues" when addressing the audience, but that was a fairly informal and activisty setting where "rogues" was more likley to be taken as "you people who are radically being yourselves in the face of a binarily-gendered system, rawr" as opposed to something like "you weirdos, I am mocking you". So it probably wouldn't work everywhere.

I think "Good evening to all of our honoured guests/deligates/etc" or similar, without even throwing "ladies and gentlemen" in there would work nicely.

A couple of union types at the RHO conference, on Friday, were talking about how "brother and sister" doesn't work so well, but if you want to keep things familial, you could go with "cousin", and commenting that "cousin" had the added bonus of "you can fuck your cousin... your siblings, not so much". Which is a whole other discussion, but there you go.

Date: 2014-02-11 04:14 pm (UTC)
random: (Default)
From: [personal profile] random
I tend to use "comrades" to dodge the "sisters and brothers" issue. It gets me the occasional odd look, but I prefer it politically as well.

Gentlebeings or Gentles

Date: 2014-02-11 12:32 pm (UTC)
james_g4clf: James in a boat in Kerala (Default)
From: [personal profile] james_g4clf
I like gentlebeings, it's been used by Anne McCaffrey (in one of the Brain Ships novels), Larry Niven (Fallen Angels), Alan Dean Foster (Flinx books), Gordon Dickson (Hokas Pokas), Keith Laumer (Odyssey), Doohan & Stirling (The Privateer), John Ringo (There Will be Dragons) and Poul Anderson (Flandry) to name but a few SF authors. But "Gentles", which I also like, might be more acceptable to non-fen for its Shakespearean antecedents (Henry IV & V, Midsummer Night's Dream, & Taming of the Shrew).

Date: 2014-02-11 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] indywind
Polite substitutes for plural gendered honorifics abound. Generally, one may address a group by any of its other characteristics (which are generally more relevant than gender, anyway, and even some binary-identified folks may appreciate having courtesy shown where it is due, rather than to their gender).

This sort of works for singular too: address a person by their profession ("coach" etc.), relationship ("friend") or role "host", "prospective contributor"), perhaps with an additional gender-neutral respectful descriptive, such as Respected, Honored, Esteemed... sometimes also Elder/Senior, Gentle, Dear, etc. Sometimes these may be used on their own, or with the addressee's forename or surname instead.

Thus constructions like, "Honored guest, may I ask how you would prefer to be addressed?" or "To Xianpeng Wang, address, etc.: Respected client, we regret to inform you that your account is overdue..." or "Esteemed colleagues, allow me to present the chairperson of our meeting, Jan Kuyper. Chair[person] Kuyper has earned postgraduate degrees in both the US And the UK..."

I personally do not like any of the presently recognized gendered honorifics and I'm not elligible for any of the commonly recognized ones like Dr., Reverend, etc. I give a pass where I have no option for feedback (forms and form letters), but when I'm directly addressed by people who insist on gendered honorific, instead of my name or a non-gender specific form of address, I will tell them to use the other one than whichever they decide to impose(*). They might as well share the discomfort if they insist on making things awkward.

(*People who insist on gendering me against my preference often seem to pic the least applicable end of the binary... what a coincidence.)


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